In the multi-billion dollar video game industry, developers, at least in the AAA range, strive for ever more realistic graphics, for cinematic productions, for complex stories and the convincing representation of emotions. But immersion also works without a budget in dizzying spheres, as Thomas was Alone impressively proves. And the title succeeded eleven years ago, because for the first time the red, rectangular Thomas sees the light of day as a flash game for the PC. This was followed by a triumphant advance over pretty much every platform, and now Switch players can also enjoy the small but fine adventure.
In the indie sector, minimalist pixel optics are usually immediately associated with merciless levels of difficulty and precise platformer challenges. Thomas was alone is different, behind the simple graphics hides a basically simple puzzle game with occasional dexterity.
Source: PC Games
Instead of human or animal-like figures, you control colored blocks, some are larger, some are smaller, some are longer, some are shorter. The first block that you will familiarize yourself with is the eponymous Thomas. He wakes up in a strange world and precisely analyzes the facts: he can jump, he can let himself fall, when he reaches the white rectangle he is transported to a new area. Thomas's thoughts on his situation, which is difficult for him to explain, are presented (very well!) By an English narrator, and the text appears in German in the picture. A little later, another block comes into play: The orange, square Christopher is quite a curmudgeon and immediately finds Thomas unappealing. However, the two can only reach the next area if they work together, because Christoph can't jump as high as Thomas, but squeeze through narrow corridors and use switches.
Source: PC Games
In the course of time, more figures with rough edges will be added. The massive Claire can barely jump, but swims on the water, so she can transport the rest of the troop over liquids undamaged. Laura, on the other hand, is flat and immobile, but her surface acts as a trampoline, allowing Thomas and his friends to reach higher areas. Not in every level you fall back on the whole row of blocks. Sometimes there are two of you traveling, sometimes several, but physically separated from each other. All the stages of the journey are accompanied by the thoughts and emotions of the minimalist figures, and their reactions are so human and understandable that you cannot avoid actually identifying yourself with a yellow block in a pixelated environment – a feat that certainly cannot any developer would succeed.
Source: PC Games
But Thomas was Alone is not just a character piece about the reactions of colored blocks to an inhospitable environment. In fact, the blocks are A.I. programs that have developed awareness for reasons that are initially unexplained. In the course of the story, Thomas and Co. go on a search for their origins and a way out of the matrix in which they are locked. That is also convincing, yes, even implemented in an exciting way. The gameplay itself definitely lags behind the plot and the characters, but in this respect too, Thomas was Alone offers some creative ideas and mechanics. In any case, the ten worlds can also be created for players who do not solve a Rubik's Rubik's cube every morning while half asleep and turn off a few puzzles before going to bed Baba is you check off.
Source: PC Games
The fact that Thomas was Alone already has a few years under his belt is not apparent from the simple look, which would probably still serve its purpose in another eleven years. The storage points, however, are not ideally designed. In some levels you will find completely unnecessary save stations, in others none at all, although it is possible to make the end inaccessible by moving the blocks by mistake. Then only a restart of the level helps – to get over it, but not ideal. The controls are simple and work well, all actions feel precise, so you are always sure that you are in control of what is happening. In addition, there is a spherical background music and the sonorous narrator's voice, which round off the great impression of the exceptional indie game.
It should be said, however: If you don't value the plot and expect an extensive puzzle adventure, you have come to the wrong address with Thomas Was Alone. With a playing time of around three hours, there is not too much puzzling in this adventure. Whether you want to shell out the ten euros for this, even for a now rather old game, is up to you. However, the title is such a charming overall package that those interested in indie should take the opportunity to catch up on Thomas's experiences.
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